Normally at this time of year, I do a full show dedicated to Hurricane Katrina, but after doing six such shows it seemed time to adjust. Instead, this week’s show offers one set of music featuring Trombone Shorty, Shamarr Allen, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.
It’s not that I don’t think Hurricane Katrina has lost its significance but with an earthquake in Haiti, frenzied evacuations in Afghanistan and a persistent plague across the globe combined with wildfires and other increasingly dangerous events, it seemed like a good year to tone it down.
And focus on the start of school instead with the help of Davis Rogan’s very funny “Mr. Rogan” about his life as a music teacher during the day and New Orleans musician at night. Larry Williams follows that up with “Little School Girl” and Shamarr Allen returns, this time with his son Jarrel Allen and friend Dinerall Shavers (son of the the late drummer for Hot 8 Brass Band) to do “Ima holla back” about doing your homework before playing on your Nintendo. Check out their video below.
Later sets include New Birth Brass Band, the Original Pinettes and grammy-winning New Orleans Nightcrawlers. I also play a vinyl track from Keith Richards debut solo album from 1988 featuring Ivan Neville, Michael Doucet and Buckwheat Zydeco accordionist Stanley Dural. Another vinyl track offers the hard to find recording of “Drink Jax Beer” by Ramsey McLean & the Survivors (with Charmaine Neville singing).
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We are all seeing more smiles these days as the vaccinated unveil their beaming faces. And more live music is getting scheduled! This week’s show gets into all that and much more. Let’s start with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “Smiles” which you can hear right now with the player below.
Over the last year, we’ve had to do it all with our eyes and eyebrows (. . .and ears for those with that kind of dexterity). Now we can add our mouths to our nonverbal repertoire. That can be good for those who are ready to strip off the cloth, but, not so good for those who appreciated, and benefitted from, having literally a “guarded” expression.
Eric Lindell knows what I’m talking about and you will too when you hear his “The Look.” Dr. John with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band follows up with “When You’re Smiling;” Buckwheat Zydeco, with Dwight Yoakum chiming in, sings “Hey, Good Lookin'” and the set ends with Chester Zardis and the New Orleans Footwarmers doing “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” a song that first appeared in a 1931 Merrie Melodies cartoon short. Zardis was a pioneer in the slap stand-up bass and probably would have been better known had he done the Chicago-New York thing. Instead, he stayed close to home. He was born 121 years ago this week.
I play a full set, nearly 20 minutes, of New Birth Brass Band songs — largely because of tumbling onto Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Milwaukee Fat” which is dedicated to Kerwin James, the sousaphonist for New Birth. James was both a survivor and victim of Hurricane Katrina. He escaped the flooded city in 2005 with his instrument but suffered a stroke a few months later. His death set off a spontaneous musical parade in his old neighborhood, the Treme, which in turn resulted in an invasion of police cars to shut the unpermitted event down. Rebirth Brass Band snare drummer Derrick Tabb and trombonist/singer Glen David Andrews were arrested for disturbing the peace. Many have argued that this conflict signaled a sea change in post-Katrina New Orleans as newcomers moving into the city clashed with historic mores of the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States.
The important thing to know for your ear is that some damn good brass band music is played. In all the New Birth songs, you can feel the power of Kerwin James’ horn.
I’ve been diving into the KAOS vinyl vault and coming up with some gems. I do a Balfa set starting with the brothers in New York, then one by Dewey and his group and then finally one by his daughter and her group. The first two are on vinyl. All three feature excellent Cajun fiddling.
I also play the title track from Dirty Dozen’s third record “Voodoo.” The Dirty Dozens will be touring the Northwest so it was my delight this week to put my first new entry in over a year to my Northwest live New Orleans music page. I see Shamarr Allen is touring too but not up here yet.
I play a track of the just-received Tuba Skinny record — well its really Maria Muldaur’s record but the Tuba Skinny musicians are prominently feature. I also dive deeper into new releases by Monk Boudreaux, Kid Eggplant and Jon Batiste.
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While we don’t have a monarchy in this country, as we recently reaffirmed, you can be “King of the Road” and wouldn’t it be nice if this new administration finally comes through with the promise of infrastructure investment. With that in mind, I start this show with James Booker’s rendition of the Roger Miller classic.
The show airs on KAOS on January 21 (and KMRE the following evening,) which is the birth anniversary of the “Human Jukebox” Snooks Eaglin. He claimed to have the ability to play 2,500 songs. You’ll hear three from his repertoire on this show in the first full set, including a JazzFest performance of Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” While his early recordings were solo acoustic folk and blues, his later recordings were R&B with Dave Bartholomew, James Booker, and Professor Longhair. He played guitar on the first Wild Magnolias record. He died in 2009 but would be in his mid-70s if still alive.
In the second set, Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie, an invention of Dr. Brice Miller, will “Fly Me (and you) to the Moon” followed by a lesser known number by Dr. John the Lower Ninth (“Them”) and Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses energetic “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” The set closes with Dave Bartholomew’s “Bouncin’ the Boogie” from 1952 – yea, the cool music started a long time ago.
I assembled the show in between skiing in the Methow Valley this week. I mention this mainly as an excuse to add a picture from my trip to this page but also since its a 10-hour round trip drive for me to that cross-country ski mecca, Larry Garner‘s “Slower Traffic, Keep Right” seemed appropriate for the show. . .not to mention The Abitals “Just Got Paid.”
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If smoke has been getting into your eyes lately, perhaps its also worth getting it into your ears with this week’s show featuring “Fire” by Rebirth Brass Band and “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” by Buckwheat Zydeco.
The first full set attempts to exorcise the fire and smoke demons bedeviling the West Coast — though a rational climate policy would be a far better approach. I start with”Something in the Air” by Kid Eggplant and the Trad Melatauns and written by Papa Eggplant (aka Sidney Snow) and featuring Bruce Brackman on clarinet.
In recognition of the passing of Frederick “Toots” Hilbert, the show dives into a Jamaican-theme set starting with Toots and the Maytals performing the classic Fats Domino hit “Let the Four Winds Blow.” It’s an appropriate choice given the pivotal role Domino and songs like “Be My Guest” (which you will also hear) play in helping to shape early Rock Steady and Reggae music. The set progresses from there culminating in Bonerama’s “Sun Lion” and returning to the clarinet with Dr. Michael White’s take on Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
Lee Mohler joins me at that point. Lee is a trumpet player for the Artesian Rumble Arkestra — a collective of Olympia-area musicians who best exemplify, at least locally, the spirit of New Orleans second line music. Lee also serenaded our children and their classmates on an overnight school field trip playing “Taps” while they crawled into sleeping bags on a gymnasium floor in the Columbia Gorge in what feels like about two hundred years ago. Lee and I have visited New Orleans together and he shares some of his love for the music with Smoking Time Jazz Club playing in the background.
I also recognize the passing of blues guitarist Bryan Lee who held down for many years a regular stint at the Old Absinthe House. Lee has 17 albums to his name but I thought, given his passing, I would honor him with a very upbeat original song from his all-Gospel final release – Sanctuary.
Maria Muldaur, Shamarr Allen, Sarah Quintana, Guitar Lightnin Lee, Spider Murphy and over a dozen others join us to fill out two hours of music from New Orleans. Thanks for tuning in. Consider subscribing which means you’ll get a notice every time a new show posted. Cheers.